By Morgan Elyse Christensen
On the 15th of April, Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines aired on PBS’s Independent Lens. This documentary, directed by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and produced by Kelcey Edwards, is entertaining, educational, and inspirational. Wonder Women! reminisces over little girls’ dreams of becoming crime-fighting action heroes while commenting on what little choice we had (and still have) in positive female character emulation. Wonder Women! also explains the history of America’s oldest superheroine and, in conjunction with a history of feminism, connects her and her female super-colleagues with other real-life woman powerhouses.
Although I caught a few reruns with my mother as a kid, I was born just a little too late to have been affected by the Lynda Carter television series. However, an impression was made on me later in life when I saw Dara Birnbaum’s experimental film, Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman. For me this was a big turning point in my understanding of the media’s portrayal of “strong” women. Yes, Wonder Woman broke the glass ceiling in the male dominated comic book arena. Yes, she was created by a man who was an advocate for women’s rights.
But she was still a woman…with boobs…in a swimsuit. I know, Superman and Batman both sport speedos and most male superheroes are drawn overly muscular – in this regard, it’s not an uneven playing field of sexualization. So, how can we complain?
Despite how they’re clothed, most superheroines are still dependent on their male counterparts and portrayed as weaker and less effective in their crime-fighting OR they’re portrayed as hysterical villains and in many cases, villain and heroine alike are killed off.
Wonder Women! premiered at Austin’s 2012 SXSW and has since made its way around the film festival circuit. It has been screened at 75 Community Cinema events in 30 states including a showing at Kansas City’s Tivoli Theatre this past March. If you haven’t had a chance to see it yet, you can actually watch it online right here, and I highly recommend that you do. However, if you don’t have an hour to kill at the moment but you’re dying to see what it’s all about, you can visit the film’s official website and watch the 4-minute trailer here.
Best part of all???
Launching TOMORROW is Wonder City, PBS’s interactive companion game to the Wonder Women! documentary. Unlike most “girl games” which focus on gendering themes such as shopping and cooking, this new action-based online game features your choice of a DIVERSE girl protagonist in a superheroine adventure that encourages critical thinking about pop culture and today’s media. HELLO! I can’t wait to play! Oh yeah, I’m sure my kids will like it too. Have fun, everyone, and let your inner Wonder Woman fly!